I remember the first time I fell in love with cookbook extraordinaire, part time Parisian and all around Baking sweetheart, Dorie Greenspan. I received her phenomenal book, and still one of my all time favourites, Paris Sweets, for a Christmas present. I spent most of that Christmas afternoon pouring over each and every recipe. The first recipe I made were the soon to be world famous " Korova Cookies". They were a revelation of a cookie and a star was born in this house, both the cookie and the woman responsible for bringing me the recipe. While this wasn't an original recipe of Dorie's she's the one that shared them with us because of her upstanding relationships with some of the greatest pastry chefs in Paris, in this case pastry king, Pierre Herme.
I worked my way fairly quickly through that book, trying every manner of sumptuous treat, each one better than the rest. Her prose before each recipe lured me into each one as if she were in my kitchen measuring flour with me, and the helpful little hints at the end of each one makes every recipe she writes become endless in possibilities. She is quite simply one of the the worlds best recipe writers and I have seeked out many of her books. Her Baking: From My Home to Yours book is a classic in my household and is frequently my go to baking book for everything from a great birthday cake to speciality recipes like Chestnut Scones , Far Breton and the amazing orange cream tart. Yes, I am gushing, but I'm not the only one who feels this way about this pixie-like wonder of the dessert world. To those of us who have baked our way through her books and read her always engaging posts on her blog, she also represerents someone living a life many of us dream of, while at the same time appearing down to earth and incredibly humble. And while I do not know her, I'd like to think of her as someone I could be friends with, or at least spend an afternoon making apple tarts and drinking tea.
All of her books until now have focused on the sweet part of the food world, so last month when her first non-dessert book came out it was at my door within days. Around My French Table, as its invitingly titled, is a collection of French home cooking recipes, from years of living in France and becoming thoroughly acquainted with its people and cuisine. After only a short time of having it in my possession I have earmarked half the book and am certain that this not unsubstantial book will stand proudly beside Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Anne Willan's Country Cooking of France.
Shortly before the book was published an online group was formed as a way of cooking through this much anticipated book. The rules were simple : cook along with other fans as often as you want, a different recipe chosen each week and post about it on Friday. The beauty of this group is that it gets me cooking. Ad deadline always helps that. I was away for the first 3 weeks and had missed out on the beginning of French Fridays with Dorie, but was excited to get in on things as soon as I was back.
My first participating recipe was this homey, French Shepherds Pie, Hachis Parmentier. Having never eaten a Shepherds pie in my life that left any sort of memory with me, or certainly not a good one, I was interested to give this a try. While meat and potatoes as a food group are not the sort of dishes that excite me as a rule, I am developing a carnivores taste more and more these days, and the autumn chill in the air and the threat of grey, wet, west coast months ahead certainly call for this sort of hearty fare.
Departing from the usual ground beef filling, this version uses a slow cooked beef stew as the base for its filling, along with a generous amount of Sausage for flavour and richness. This filling was so appealing with its irregular shaped pieces of stewed beef, mixed with spicy sausage, soft, sweet vegetables, and the full flavoured beef broth, made for a really, tasty filling.
Topped with a generous amount of fluffy, riced potatoes and a balanced layer of gruyere cheese made this a mid week meal to look forward to. Who could resist that!!!? We enjoyed this with a racy beet salad, some hearty whole grain bread and a big Malbec to stand alongside the meat. This was a recipe I'll be trying again for sure!
FFwD Rules state we don't publish the recipe in our post, so I'm honouring that. So consider buying this beautiful book so you can cook along with us. If you ask nicely, I just might be able to give you some guidelines however.